THE SOLARNAUTS (1967) – It’s kind of a shame that this pilot for a science fiction series didn’t get picked up. The Solarnauts combined some of the best (and worst) elements of Star Trek and Doctor Who plus Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s countless “Supermarionation” programs like Thunderbirds, Supercar, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, etc.
This program featured a Star Fleet type organization of the future and its light, fluffy adventures – adventures that wouldn’t have been out of place on 1950’s television so the show had a nice “retro” feel. I’m sure that’s why it wasn’t picked up as a series since televised sci-fi was going for a much more self-consciously serious tone by then. The two Solarnauts who served as the show’s protagonists bore the strange names Power (John Garfield) and Tempo (Derek Fowlds). They piloted a small craft on their missions throughout the solar system, in which (in what WOULD have been the show’s canon) each planet was either colonized or had native inhabitants.
Power and Tempo, when they weren’t DJing parties (that’s just an assumption on my part based on their names) took their orders from a guy called Tri-S, so you can insert your own SSS! joke here. Martine Beswick, always sporting that undefinable sex appeal of hers, guest-stars as a female Solarnaut who helps Power and Tempo against the story’s bad guys.
Those bad guys are led by a tall, bald, green-skinned alien named Logik (pronounced “low-jick”, bizarrely enough), a cross between Ming the Merciless, Fu Manchu and a James Bond villain. Logik and his race were going to be the Klingons of the show but in this episode they mostly serve as easy foils for our heroic Solarnauts. Logik’s terrorist-style plot to extort concessions from the government by unleashing deadly storms on populated planets falls apart thanks to Power, Tempo and Beswick (even fully-clothed that woman just drives a man crazy).
It’s never fair to judge a show’s potential based solely on one episode (think of how Star Trek: The Next Generation might get trashed if the first episode was all viewers had to go by) so despite the obvious shortcomings of The Solarnauts I would have loved to see what the creative team – especially Roberta Leigh – did with the series if they had had at least a six or thirteen episode window to wow us with.
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